One of the most frequent questions we’re asked by companies looking to subscribe to our ice machine program is “how much ice do I really need” for my restaurant or bar? And that’s a great question!

There are many variables to consider to best factor your restaurant or bar’s ice needs. How large is your establishment? How many customers come through the door in a typical week? Do your ice needs include bar use and back of house/kitchen use? We’ve put together a catch-all ice needs estimator, with the general rule of thumb being 3 lbs of ice per customer. Now let’s get a little deeper by looking at ice needs by drink type.

Depending on the type of beverage or cocktail your ice needs will differ. The size and style of glassware you use also play a role. Many bars and restaurants are using 8-10 different styles of glassware.

Do you sell more iced tea and soft drinks than spirits? Do you use ice in buckets to cool down beer? Are your cocktail sales higher for classics, blended or shaken? Taking these factors into consideration, you’ll get a better idea of your ice needs, amounts and types of ice you should be using in your restaurant or bar.

Let’s begin breaking ice needs down one drink at a time, by amount and type.

Ice Needs By Beverage and Glassware Type

Beverage TypeLbs of Ice NeededRecommended Ice Cube Type
Water and Tea 1/4 lbCrescent Cube
Cocktails in Rocks Glasses1/4 lbCrescent Cube
Classic Cocktails in Rocks Glasses1/4 lbSquare Cube
Soda1/3 lbCrescent Cube
Highball Glasses1/2 lbCrescent or Square Cube
Shaken Cocktails3/4 lbCrescent Cube
Blended/Frozen Cocktails1/2 lbNugget Ice
Bucket of Beer5-7 lbsCrescent Cube

Note: These are our best approximations and may differ depending on your glassware.

We believe nugget ice is best for blended drinks because the ice is softer. Softer ice will help the longevity and performance of your blenders. Plus, nugget ice easily creates the “slush” we all desire in blended cocktails and beverages. Crescent shaped ice cubes are the go-to for many applications. The curvature of the cube reduces splash as it contours nicely to the glass. Crescent is also the best shaped ice for cocktails using shakers.

Once you’ve calculated your general ice needs, be sure to add another 25% for mistakes or other uses. Does your kitchen have ice needs too? In a restaurant, your chef may go through 100 lbs of ice per day for chilling and cooling products down. So, when you think about your overall ice needs at your restaurant or bar, be sure to consider these additional uses.

Choosing the right size commercial ice machine for your business can be daunting. Good news for Easy Ice customers though. Not only do we help you determine the best size/type ice machine for your business, our simple Upsizing Program allows your ice production to grow as your business grows. (Note: Subscribers can upsize once per year if needed. This program does not include downsizing ice making equipment.)

We hope this article better clarifies the amount of ice and ice types your restaurant or bar requires for your ice needs.  Have questions? Leave them in the comments section and an Iceologist will get back to you.